Driving Energy-Efficient Cars
So ethanol might suck, but at least people who drive hybrid cars have our back, right? The virtues of the Prius and similar hybrids are obvious: They use an electric motor alongside a gasoline one, making them more fuel-efficient, so driving one will help the environment and save money on gas. It's win-win!
Take that, terrorism!
How We Half-Ass It
Once again, consumers here forgot about a single important detail: actually saving fuel. A 2009 study found that hybrid drivers drive around 25 percent more than other drivers, even when they share similar commute times. In other words, they get so cocky that their cars are saving them so much fuel that they go out and burn more fuel. This kind of vehicular half-assedness isn't the exclusive domain of Prius owners, however: In the last 40 years, American cars have become about 50 percent more energy-efficient. Progress, right? Not really: At the same time, the distance driven by the average car owner has doubled.
Economists have even given it a name: the rebound effect.
Economists love basketball almost as much as they love spreadsheets.
As a piece of technology becomes more efficient, our use of it goes up, too. So if we invent new building materials that mean it takes less energy to heat a house, humans respond by building giant new homes -- hey, with the money you'll save on heating, you can afford it! It's a bit like what happens on the Internet: Your speed goes up, but Web pages don't load any faster because everyone just starts adding 16 new types of Flash animation. And it's not new, either: The effect was first noticed among coal consumers in the 19th century. In other words, half-assing it is a long, proud, and storied tradition amongst our peoples.
Many purely diesel-powered cars are already putting hybrids to shame in terms of MPG achieved, but really, anybody who keeps his normal driving habits and owns a car that gets at least 75 percent of the fuel efficiency of a Prius (or about 38MPG) is technically better for the environment. According to the British Department of Transport, that's every single passenger car in the U.K. today.
Yet we still keep these around, presumably because they're just so damn sexy.
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For more half-hearted environmental caring, check out The 6 Most Half Assed Attempts at Corporate Green Washing. Or see how we will save the Earth with shitty plans, in 6 Terrible Ideas That Science Says Will Save the Planet.
And stop by Linkstorm to see how Brockway plans to the save the world with scotch and dirty undies.
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